Chicken

Easy Polenta Squares Using Piggyback Cookery by Anne

butternut squash polenta squares Can you get "slow food" out of quick steps?  Turns out, yes.  Three nights in a row we ate really well, even though I was feeling deeply lazy. The only thing keeping me from ordering pizza delivery on Saturday was that something was about to go bad in the fridge. 

Monday's polenta squares started as Saturday chicken guilt.   

Saturday

The "use or freeze by" date was upon us.  I cleaned and rubbed the waning chicken with lots of rosemary, thyme, sea salt, and peppercorns.  It went into the mini-rotisserie (or a low-heat oven would have been fine) for an hour and a half.  Nestled on top of some fresh greens, that chicken was mighty fine, considering the amount of hands-on cooking time was about 10 minutes. 

After dinner we threw the bones in a pot with chunks of onion, carrot, celery, parsley, and bay leaf, with enough water to cover.  I brought the pot to boil while cleaning up the kitchen, and let the pot simmer until it was time to go to bed. 

When we strained the stock into a bowl, we tasted it.  It was a rockstar quality stock, though a mite salty.  I knew it would become a science project if I didn't use it up quickly, because I would be too lazy to find the right dish to freeze it in. 

Sunday

I was late getting home.  The quickest stock-using solution I could think of was to peel a butternut squash, shred it in the cuisinart, and boil it with the stock, along with some nutmeg, honey, and white pepper.  The cooking was quick--about 10 minutes--because the squash was in small shreds. Rinsing the cuisinart during boiling time and using it to puree the soup added almost no time to the whole deal.  We had butternut squash soup, along with bacon sandwiches (bacon prepared on a cookie sheet in the oven).  Dinner took about 15 minutes to make. 

After dinner, we had lots of leftover soup, which I was sure would become next week's compost if we didn't morph it into something new, ASAP.   So it became two other things:  the base for a lunchy lentil soup (Easy! Boil rinsed lentils in the soup with some extra water for a little over half an hour),  and the liquid for cooking polenta.  

While Michael gave Rosalie a bath I made the polenta, washing dishes in between polenta stirrings.  When it was ready, I spread the polenta in a flat layer on a greased jelly roll pan, covered it with wax paper, then slid it into the fridge.  I was feeling super smug at that point.  Most of the work was done now!

The next night, a tired Monday night, all I had to do was cut the smooth, flat polenta into squares, dip it in egg and bread crumbs, and fry the squares in olive oil with slices of onion.  I served the squares with tomato sauce, the fried onions, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.   These little squares were crispy on the outside and full of butternutty, corny richness on the inside.  We ate so well and so happily.  I felt truly recharged by this accidentally thoughtful meal.

Is there a cookbook out there that shows how you can do this on a regular basis?  Using part of one night's meal to make the next night's meal  is not just efficient; it's bringing love and luxury into your day.  It's the gift of time that you somehow stole, the pleasure of slow food by staggering or layering your meals.  You get something slow out of something quick!  Magic.

Chicken Curry Salad Paradigm by Anne

curry powderDid I ever eat chicken curry salad before this recipe?  It's hard to even imagine.  This recipe is a Platonic Ideal--the ultimate curried chicken salad paradigm.  It's the kind of salad that people will get seconds for, and if they don't, they might be haunted by it later, kicking themselves for not getting another plateful.  This may sound extreme, but a friend of mine actually said this after doing some self-kicking.  So. Thanks, Barefoot Contessa, for hooking me up with this awesome recipe.  The kind of curry powder you use is one of the keys to this salad's magic.   For me, the magical powder is Muchi curry powder, an Indian blend.  It has a little bit of heat from the  cayenne, white pepper, and black pepper.  The brand I use is Frontier.  If you are curious about this flavor but it's not at a store near you, it is available online.  Frontier brand's Muchi curry contains: Turmeric, cumin, ginger, black pepper, coriander, fenugreek, dehydrated garlic, celery seed, cloves, cayenne, caraway, white pepper, and mace.  If you're ready to make this salad right this moment and feeling adventurous, you could doctor up that curry powder in your cabinet--or even make your own.

*****

Edit!!  Actually, the brand that I have been using from the bulk section of a gourmet-ish grocery store, Frontier, has a couple varieties of Indian-inspired curries.  I was using "Curry Powder," not the "Muchi" variety.  However, "Curry Powder" still has a fair amount of heat because it contains cayenne. The ingredients are different: Organic coriander, organic turmeric, organic mustard, organic cumin, organic fenugreek, organic paprika, organic cayenne, organic cardamom, organic nutmeg, organic cinnamon, organic cloves.

 The next time I make this chicken salad (which will be doing soon), I am going to try it with Muchi, as I recommended above.  Might as well follow my own advice!

 *****

Another secret to this recipe is the use of roasted chicken breasts that still have the skin on and bone in.  The flavor of the meat is so much more rich and juicy when prepared this way.  And then you have an extra bonus: I use the skins and bones to make a small amount of quick chicken stock while I'm making the rest of the salad.  It's not a big deal--I just throw in the chicken parts, cover them with water, then add the tired-er scallion leaves from the recipe, along with old carrots and celery and some herbs.  I bring the water to boil and let it simmer for a couple of hours while doing other things.  Then I strain the stuff into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

Curried Chicken Salad

Adapted fairly faithfully from the Barefoot Contessa's recipe; modified to make a finer texture.  I have modified the texture to fit in the cones from yesterday's post.  If you wish to serve this salad as an entree salad or on a sandwich, coarsely chop the chicken, and dice the celery and scallions more coarsely as well, and leave the cashews whole (still adding cashews at the last minute for a good crunch). 

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 lbs chicken breasts (6 split breasts or so) with bone in & skin on
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 Major Grey's Chutney
  • 3 T curry powder -- one that you love!
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, both white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup roasted, salted cashews, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Roast the chicken breasts until they are cooked and still juicy, about 35 minutes.  Set chicken aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a food processor combine mayonnaise, chutney, wine, and curry powder and process until completely smooth. 
  4. Remove chicken from skin and bones, then pulse 8 to 10 times to create a fine texture.  Combine the dressing with the chicken until well-coated.  Stir in the celery, scallions, and raisins.   Refrigerate for a couple of hours to give the flavors a chance to meld. 
  5. Right before serving, stir in the cashews.
  6. If stuffing into cones, spoon salad into a ziplock baggie and snip a hole in the bottom corner of the baggie.  "Pipe" chicken salad into each cone, giving enough pressure to fill in the bottom tip of the cones.

Makes about 6 cups.  If filling cones--fills about 80 - 90 cones.